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Re-defining “maximal” and outdoing the rest

September 1, 2009

August 4, 2009

Rating: 7.3/10

One guitar, one set of drums and two vocalizers, but as the press release reminds me, this is not minimal. Pressing play further dispelled any misconceptions that I may have been carrying about this Vancouver twosome.

Japandroids are “maximal,” or in other words a two-piece band that attempts to sound like a five-piece. With layer, upon layer of distortion and vocal transformation, the effect is captured and driven home. That is, driven home by a sledgehammer.

If this album is nothing else it is loud, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t exhilarating.

Japandroids is not unlike some of the other noise bands that have emerged in 2009, however, the one thing that these Canadian rockers do differently, and better in my opinion, is find a melody.

What is most impressive is that they do what their counterparts can’t seem to do: they cut through the wall of noise from the fuzzed out guitar and pounding drums and produce a fully composed song. While this music isn’t earbud friendly with it’s heavy distortion, it is easier on the listener than the harsh, static tones of Wavves.

Sometimes, on the extended jam “Crazy/Forever” for example, the soft vocals come to the front and create a dynamic juxtaposition with the frenetic background music which emphasizes the inherent qualities of each. The softness, even when pushed through vocal synthesizers, is more accessible and listener-friendly, not to mention a welcome change of pace.

The sheer emotionalism of Post-Nothing is endearing, to say the least. The cock-eyed optimism of the lyrics played with punk rock enthusiasm and vigor present a product that is at once energizing and stimulating. The heavy guitar chugs the listener through each blistering beat and provides a steady garage punk backdrop for the lyrics to truly draw the listener in.

These songs about going for girls (“Wet Hair”), then giving them up (“I Quit Girls”) and living in the present (just about everything else) encapsulate the spirit of the youth today: in between a world of collegiate freedom and returning to the parental roost against their will.

This is the music of the new lost generation who just want to continue living without any consequences. These are the anthems of the carefree, the heartsongs of the well educated youth that has been marginalized by the faltering economy. This is the portrait of your collegiate graduating classes of the last two, and probably next two years.

I won’t further any pretenses and have you believe that this is one of my favorite albums of the year, because it is not. To me, this is simply an album that is interesting, and released at a time when it means more than the writers could have imagined.

I do think that this is a good album, better than it’s contemporaries, but I think that the real draw from this album is in the emotion of the music, and the connection that can be made from that.

Those connections are felt with the heavy bass drum, with the primal scream that is post-teenage angst and with the contrasting soft vocals that is the person beneath it all. Throw in some heavily overdriven guitar chords and you’ve got a recipe for a wonderfully intense and sweaty concert not soon to be forgotten.

One that may be closer than you might think.

Japandroids will be playing the Canopy Club in Champaign on September 16th as a part of the Pygmalion Music Festival, and I will see that sweaty throng in rapture with the music. Maybe then I will understand the full beauty of this album and the full scope of Japandroids draw.

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